Frozen-rails-2014

Nextdays Pivots To Badger And Tells Us About Recruitment

If you attended Slush this year, then you definitely have one of the Badger stickers, pictured on the left. After all, the team behind Badger gave out nearly 2 000 stickers at the event, I have one on my freezer and even my desk.

We got together with Joonas Tunturi, the CEO of Social Ark Oy which is the company that created Nextdays and Badger to discuss recruitment in start-ups. They opened shop over a year ago and thanks to getting a Tekes Tempo funding were able to quickly expand the workforce, pivot and create a pretty interesting service.

The first product that was created was Nextdays, which was a very casual calendar for you and your friends, helping you discover what those around you are up-to. The team soon discovered that there is a different need in the community and in the summer of 2012 decided to pivot to Badger. As Tunturi said: "If you've got to fail, do it fast and move on". They still kept the focus on free time and activities.

Basically, Badger connects people to each other through their hobbies. What is great is that it does not simply connect you to your friends, but also to other people who are interested in the same things in your area. For instance I have been in Finland for nearly a year now and still did not find a partner to play pool regularly with or to go out on photography tours, so I joined Badger and I hope that very soon it will help me find a community out there.

The company is growing quite well both in Finland and abroad. The team that started with just Tunturi has a total of 5 people working on Badger (3 full-time and 2 part-time) and we wanted to find out how important recruitment was for Badger and Social Ark Oy. Tunturi explained this very well in an interview:

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AS: So let's begin with a simple question, what were your first steps in terms of recruitment at Social Ark OY?

Tunturi: Well, first I founded Nextdays by myself and I immediately thought that I need a great user interaction designer, to make it look great and a CTO. Both of this key personnel would also become my co-founders. This would form a basic core team.

I found Roope Rainisto who is our Design lead and co-founder. That was sort of easy, I knew him as we both worked on the same product at Nokia/MeeGo. He was very fond of the idea and our missions aligned. So it was easy.

However we still needed a CTO and at first we used an external company to make Nextdays, but then I knew that I needed my own team. The CTO was very hard to find. It always is, because you must get a great guy. You can’t have any mediocre guys in your core team. I was patient and finally at the end of the year I found Lauri Svan, who is now our Techical Lead and Co-Founder.

AS: In that regard, do you think its important to be patient and try to get the absolute best?

Tunturi: Yes, I think you just need to be patient. Maybe not the absolute best but definitely a superb guy/girl. If you have the right core team, the whole company will go in that direction. I think it’s absolutely crucial otherwise you slip towards something where startups should not go.

It also depends on the combination of the team. The team needs to be able to work together in terms of compatibility, mindset and corporate culture. Ambition level is also important.

AS: What about approaching recruitment in general, is it an art or a science?

Tunturi: I would say it’s a bit of both. In the first phase it must be a science, you must get enough applicants to begin with, but at the end it is art where you rely on your intuition. When you are left with just three candidates, you can not make a decision simply based on paper, so that’s when it becomes art.

AS: How did you try to get the best people? Where did you look?

Tunturi: When we started with the Tekes Tempo program, we were looking for a developer. We tried to figure out where the developers are. Of course we identified – Linkedin but also Stackoverflow, where we put our first add.

We got about half of the applicants from Linkedin and the other half from Stackoverflow. The overall quality was slightly better at Stackoverflow but we ended up taking a guy that we found on Linkedin.

AS: What about recruitment channels in Finland, have you tried any of them?

Tunturi: We used those channels as well. When I was looking for a co-founder, I used Founder2be and also Aaltoes recruitment channel. However I did not get too many applications.

Though, I would use those channels again.

AS: There are a lot of great companies and start-ups in Finland right now that people want to work for. How do you compete for talent with them?

Tunturi: Of course it is not that easy. You are not able to get as many applications. However for example we recruited a young guy who is 22 years old, who has been studying in Lahti who is simply an amazing young talent. I think you can more easily grab those guys, compared to more professional and seasoned employees.
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In my opinion this advice is very solid and you can definitely apply this to your start-up as well. What recruitment techniques have you been using for your start-up? Let us know in the comments.

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